One of the most popular theories on aging is the free radical theory and it has been around since the 1950’s, although it has not been in the mainstream headlines until the 1990’s. This theory focuses on free radical damage to our cells as we age and this causes our body to slowly breakdown.
A free radical is a molecule or an atom with lone electron outside the surface of a cell. These cells with that electron outside the cell structure are not like normal cells and are the troublemakers and they are highly reactive. They do the damage that stresses our body and are similar to oxidative damage.
Oxidation occurs when oxygen interacts with a cell and you can see this with a piece of fruit that is cut open and slowly starts to change color and rot. Another example is the formation of rust on metal. This oxidation can be very damaging to our body, just like free radicals, but it is also a normal part of our functioning. We just have to make sure we try and limit the amount of oxidation in our body.
It has been theorized that free radicals can also cause us to develop diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. These diseases are associated with aging and are more prevalent in our older population. Another factor in keeping these diseases at bay is to have an exercise program.
I first read about this theory of aging in an old book by Richard Passwater called Supernutrition that was released back in 1975. While the author had some extreme ideas on nutrition, he is one of the first authors to write about the importance of free radicals in how healthy we are. He is also one of the first authors to warn of the dangers of polyunsaturates.
So what are we supposed to do to fight these free radicals? One of the best ways to keep your body healthy is to make sure you are getting enough antioxidants from food and supplements. The key antioxidants we need to take include vitamin C, E, and A, along with the carotenoids like beta-carotene.
Two of biggest classes of antioxidants that destroy free radicals are polyphenols and flavonoids. Both these antioxidants neutralize the free radicals before they can damage your body’s cells.
We can get a good portion of the radical-fighting antioxidants from the food we eat, but it is wise to add supplements to aid in the battle against free radicals and oxidation. But we must not get carried away and take massive doses of antioxidants because this could have a detrimental effect on our body. Instead we need to use moderation, just as in anything we use in our diet or supplementation.
Free radicals and oxidation are part of our constant battle to maintain our health and we need to make sure we are eating healthy and adding antioxidants to help fight off the ravages of free radicals and oxidation.